Under the street light

Ashika at age 9 reading comic strip in paperI remember being a small child, waiting impatiently for my dad to arrive home with the local newspaper Wieczór Wybrzeża. I wished to see the very bottom of the back page, where a section was devoted to Christa’s cartoons.

Now I’m 9, and finally big enough to buy the paper myself. I walk around the corner, from our apartment, to the nearby newspaper Kiosk. I’m proud of my “important job”. Mom and Dad are fully aware of my passion for the Kajtek and Koko strips, so they patiently wait to read the paper after me.

I am walking home, while reading strip (#76) from Christa’s “W kosmosie”. The pictures are only visible under the street lights, so my progress toward home is slow. Thank goodness there are several lamps along the way. I stop under every one to savour the story and the art. Once home, I announce to my parents that I have found my calling in life, which is to collect every Kajtki that ever was. It is Thursday, 25th of July, 1968.

Days change into weeks, then months into years, and my passion becomes an obsession. It’s no longer enough for me to cut out cartoon strips from the paper, I am now diligently searching for old strips, from the time before I was born.

By now I’ve gotten creative at finding collectors of Christa’s work. Often they are big kids, who are willing to trade their collections for something that I might have to offer.

My dad had started me collecting rare coins, and I have an impressive cache. One of my earliest trading successes came when bartering a few coins for a stack of ancient Kajtek and Koko strips. Some of my coins are precious, dating back to the 16th century. I even have a few Polish silver coins (that will come in handy), when I need to make a serious trade. Whatever a deal consists of, I always come away feeling successful! Over time, my coin collection disappears to nothing, but I hold a wrinkly mountain of “solid gold” newspapers!

As I get older my treasure trove grows along with me. Thanks to my grandma in Vancouver, I possess stacks of Western comics, that the kids in my neighbourhood can’t wait to get their hands on. Those starry eyed boys, are desperate for the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman, and are willing to make fast deals with me, in exchange for anything by Christa.

I remember swapping Superman for an original Kajtek Majtek (Zyg-Zak) story from 1961 in which Christa’s pencil sketches are visible beneath his ink overdrawing. To this day, those illustrations are some of my most treasured possessions, mainly because, hidden at the back of the strips are Christa’s original sketches that have never seen the light of day. One of them is of a curvaceous nude woman. For years I searched for her in every Kajtek and Koko comic. Alas, she never showed up in any of them.

“Excerpt from my journal, 1968 Sopot, Poland.

But today, I am happy to inform you that its a new day, and that the “curvaceous woman” will soon appear in the pages of The Spirit Journey!